You’re pregnant. The world has changed; your life has shifted. You’re two people now instead of one, carrying a growing child within you. You’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the new rules. Not to mention, your neighbor down the street just told you that you can’t eat ranch dressing.
“When you're pregnant, everything that goes into your mouth gets shared with your growing baby. Even though some types of foods and even some types of food poisoning may not hurt you, they may harm your little one.” (1)
As soon as someone tells you that you are no longer allowed to have a certain food, it becomes all you can think about. Soft cheese? Deli meats? Soft-boiled eggs? Wine? Regardless of whether or not you ate these foods before pregnancy, they are now all that you can think about.
It’s no secret that there are differing opinions about what pregnant women are supposed to avoid. Some guidelines seem more relaxed, while other articles make you feel guilty for eating anything at all. How are you supposed to know what exactly you should and should not avoid? How can you feel safe consuming foods that no one ever explicitly mentions? What are the main ingredients in ranch dressing? How do you decide whether or not to eat it when you’re pregnant?
As your baby develops, you are their sole source of nourishment, which means what you eat is important. Women who are pregnant pass nutrients to their babies, but they can also pass on harmful bacteria or viruses (2). Certain foods can affect the baby in a dangerous way, and it’s up to you to ensure that you don’t eat something toxic. Some of these foods include:
- fish high in mercury
- (king mackerel, big eye tuna, swordfish, etc.)
- raw meat
- raw eggs
- soft cheese
- unpasteurized foods
- excess caffeine
- unwashed fruits and vegetables (2).
Many of the reasons to avoid these foods come down to harmful bacteria. This bacteria could cause illnesses like food poisoning or listeria. Though these diseases wouldn’t necessarily be fatal to an average adult, they very well could harm your growing baby. The Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch writes that “While adults are able to fend off listeria, unborn children can suffer a life-threatening infection or blood poisoning” (3).
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you have the smallest taste of queso fresco at a party, you will harm your baby. However, these foods could be dangerous if an expectant mother eats them regularly (4).
Food guidelines aren’t put in place to keep you feeling on-edge about the life you’re forming. They are there to help you provide the best environment possible for your sweet babe to grow.
Ranch dressing, along with most other salad dressings, is delicious. Ranch goes with everything and is a staple in the American diet. Some are afraid the dressing contains raw or undercooked eggs and stay away from it (2). However, if you check the label for egg content, you’ll find that it does not contain eggs. Therefore, you’re free to continue your love affair with one of America’s best dressings.
There are plenty of other specific foods you may not be sure about eating. Consider the ingredients while deciding what is safe for a pregnant woman to eat. Watch out for raw eggs, as they may put you and your infant in danger of salmonella poisoning (5). Because hollandaise sauce, bearnaise sauce and aioli sauce are made with partially cooked eggs, they should be avoided. Avoid meringue desserts and homemade ice cream because the egg could be undercooked (5). Pregnant women should not eat sauces made at home like homemade mayonnaise or Caesar dressing, because the eggs may not be cooked up to temperature.
This may sound like a lot of restriction, but the good news is that store-bought salad dressings, are safe for pregnant women to eat. This includes mayonnaise, Kraft ranch, Caesar salad dressing, bleu cheese ranch dressing, and most other dressings. This is because the FDA requires all commercially produced dressings to be pasteurized. This means that the milk has been heated to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria (6). Purchasing most dairy products from your local grocery store, like sour cream, and cottage cheese would also be a safe bet. Another important thing is to check the list of the product’s ingredients for pasteurized eggs, which means it is safe to consume.
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If you’re beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by all these guidelines, rest assured, you’re not alone. You’re going through massive amounts of change in this time of life, and it makes perfect sense that the last thing you want to do is to change your diet.
When you think about it, though, there are plenty of options open and available. Try swapping out soft cheeses with a variety of hard cheeses. Stay away from homemade sauces and stick to store-bought dressings and ice cream for a while. Simply microwave your deli meat before adding it to your sandwich. Avoid a runny egg yolk by boiling your eggs a few minutes longer. Get in the habit of checking the main ingredients of the products you buy at the store. If you’re concerned about an ingredient you haven’t heard of before, like xanthan gum or soybean oil, simply do a quick check on your phone before adding it to your cart.
Though this time of your life is incredibly different than any other you’ve ever experienced, rest assured that your body knows what to do. In fact, you will more than likely know what you should be eating based on your pregnancy cravings. Oftentimes if you’re desperate for a certain food, it could mean that you’re lacking in important nutrients. If you’re craving salty foods, you may be dehydrated. If a huge steak sounds delicious, you may need more iron (7).
You are an intuitive being and the most important thing you can do is to tune into your instincts. This will ensure you’re caring for yourself and your baby in the very best way. Listen to your body, listen to your doctor, and feel free to continue to enjoy that ranch dressing!
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- Greenlaw, E. (2021, March 19). Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy. WebMD.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Pregnancy Nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy. Mayo Clinic.
- Foods to Avoid While Pregnant. OBGYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, LLC.
- Food Safety First. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Can You Eat Aioli Sauce When Pregnant? Know Your Pantry.
- Waggot, G. (2022). Can Pregnant Women Eat Ranch Salad Dressing? Is it Safe? Pregnancy Food Checker.
- Bouchez, C. (2008). Pregnancy Cravings: When You Gotta Have It! Grow by WebMD.